Star of “Dance Moms” Faces Federal Charges Including Wire Fraud for False Bankruptcy Reports
Abby Lee Miller, star of “Dance Moms” on Lifetime, has reportedly been charged by the federal government with wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud after hiding more than $775,000 in income.
Per a filing in Pittsburgh by the US Attorney’s Office, Miller has been indicted by a grand jury in Pennsylvania “on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations.” Miller’s dance studio is based in Pittsburgh, and became famous through the hit reality TV show starting in 2011.
Miller filed for bankruptcy in 2010, just a year before the hit show premiered. She claimed to be in debt for more than $356,000 which she could not repay, including a $200,000 mortgage on a home in Florida, plus the $96,000 mortgage on her dance studio in Pittsburgh. The income she concealed came entirely from the show, including guest appearances on talk shows and events.
The Pittsburgh filing states that Miller committed wire fraud by shuffling money into different bank accounts, including family’s accounts, and business accounts for shell corporations she created in Florida. Miller allegedly “schemed to defraud the bankruptcy court by concealing income she earned between 2012 and 2013 from her performances on the reality TV show ‘Dance Moms’ and related spinoff TV shows.” She also faces charges that she committed bankruptcy fraud by hiding this income while restructuring her business’s debt.
Reportedly, an investigation into the potential bankruptcy and wire fraud began after a bankruptcy court judge saw Miller on television. Miller had reportedly claimed less than $9,000 per month in income from her studio, but the judge realized that if she had a successful reality TV deal, then she must be making more than that.
“Criminal prosecution is appropriate when debtors corrupt the bankruptcy process through deceit and lies before the court,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.
As part of her original bankruptcy reorganization, which was ordered by the court, Miller created a Debtor in Possession (DIP) bank account. She should have deposited all of her business income into that account, and use it to pay out expenses to keep her dance studio afloat. She submitted income statements claiming that she still had reduced income to her business, including for December 2012 and January 2013. However, her bankruptcy overseer suspected both her dance studio and television deal allowed her much higher income, so in February 2013, she went to a hearing regarding the investigation. Rather than admit she had more income, Miller began to hold on to checks until the hearing was over, and told her accountant specifically not to deposit some income. She created bank accounts to circumvent the DIP account, and she also created shell companies in Florida in order to take income out her Pennsylvania bank accounts and hide it from her bankruptcy overseer.
Her bankruptcy judge ordered an investigation, conducted by the United States Trustee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Miller faces at least 13 years in prison for the bankruptcy charges alone.